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Ba Sing Se sunset
Breathe
Chapter information
Written by

Sparkstoaflame

Editor(s)

Sparkstoaflame

Release date

March 21, 2014

Word count

762

Breathe
By this point, my beheading will only be a mere technicality.
.

A setting sun, bathing the courtyard in a dark and ruddy red.

A hot breeze, huffing around the snaking line of victims, brown and dead leaves skittering by our feet.

It is here I stand—in the Fire Nation's imperial courtyard, my head tilted up proudly—don't show fear, don't show fear—with what I hope is a brave and defiant expression—be strong, be proud—faced with the chopping block, faced with Crown Prince Azulon himself—a cause worth dying for.

The Phoenix Rebellion, we called it. The irritating sore on the underside of the bloated superpower. Fight from the inside, against the oppressive regime of Fire Lord Sozin.

On the Fire Lord's orders—mothers and children of the other three nations, killed in the name of arrogance and pride. Beggars, extending their hands to him and withdrawing bleeding stumps. The Avatar, swallowed by the tide of an incoming wave of raging lava.

Too much blood. Too much innocent blood spilled in the name of supremacy.

But I'd like to think that we accomplished something. That we've made a difference, no matter how small, in this drawn- out war.

Stand in the fading glow of the setting sun, stand here in the way of the hot and howling wind...

...playing a game...

...playing the waiting game...

...waiting...

By this point, my beheading will only be a mere technicality. Only another bloodstain upon the splattered and defiled history of the Fire Nation's cruel role in the Hundred Years' War, a blotch that will soon mingle with all the other deaths, all the other injuries until it is simply forgotten beneath the layers upon layers of death and wasted life.

The sentencing begins.

"Akashi Zheng. Male, twenty-four. Participant in the Phoenix Rebellion. Death by decapitation."

A flat, toneless voice reads out the conviction like it is nothing more than meaningless. Nothing more than a string of detached words. For the man standing at the chopping block, the executioner's words are merely a hindrance, for he is already dead.

Thunk.

I take a step.

"Kwan Fong. Female, thirty-two. Participant in the Phoenix Rebellion. Death by decapitation."

The woman's tear-stained face turns blindly towards me before it is forced down. Save me, her amber eyes beg. Silently, I stand with my hands loosely folded behind my back, as still as stone.

Thunk.

I take a step.

"Kuzon Yuan. Male, fifteen. Participant in the Phoenix Rebellion. Death by decapitation."

Ghostly pale, the small boy at the block struggles to appear stoic and bold, in the face of the impending silver blade. The fear shining out from his eyes is almost tangible. The vein in my neck pulses.

Thunk.

I take a step.

"Fan Yuan. Female, twenty-one. Participant in the Phoenix Rebellion. Death by decapitation."

Hard eyes, hard stance, hard mouth—watches her brother's head roll by her feet, spitting a fountain of hot red blood onto her ragged shoes. A mere twitch. This woman has seen things she will never forget, done things she can never forgive. It is better this way.

Thunk.

I take a step.

"Suzhun Weine. Male, fifty. Participant in the Phoenix Rebellion. Death by decapitation."

Fear and conscience has made short work of this one. Eyes that used to crinkle in laughter now seem to hold a vast emptiness; see nothing. I off-handedly wonder if he has children, and whether or not they are watching.

Thunk.

I take a step.

"Daichi Lao. Male, twenty-eight. Participant in the Phoenix Rebellion. Death by decapitation."

Hate has twisted what once had been an attractive face into nothing more than an ugly sneer. No woman will ever pine after him again. Except, of course, on the off chance that women suddenly starting preferring men who are short a head.

Thunk.

I take a step.

"Kai Patnaik. Male, twenty. Participant in the Phoenix Rebellion. Death by decapitation."

A dancer's grace and a dancer's figure. If the other man is attractive, this young man is the epitome of male beauty. It really is a pity he has to die.

Thunk.

I take a step.

"Tei-luen Chan. Male, nineteen. Participant in the Phoenix Rebellion. Death by decapitation."

He turns. Gives me one last lingering look. Steps up to the block. I can't help but choke with despair as his hand slips from mine.

Thunk.

A tear runs down my cheek.

Then I take a step up.

"Chuang Howe. Female, eighteen. Participant in the Phoenix Rebellion. Death by decapitation."

Goodbye.

I lick my lips. Bare my teeth into a smile. Sweep my hair aside and offer my neck.

...

Thunk.

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